3 p.m. and excited, I am heading home little realizing she is too,
packing my bag with that refined sense of glorious freedom that
comes on Fridays, knowing that there will be no classes, none –
for two days – no classes, freedom – packing my dark-blue cloth bag
pocketing a pink lipstick to put on once past the convent grounds,
happy in a shuttle bus to the Long Island Rail Road and Flatbush.
Tickets are two-something and the sites and smells of Brooklyn beckon.
I look forward to the Hudson and concrete sidewalks and city parks
and the mulberry trees that stand guard outside our apartment complex.
I think of her, Teresa Margaret, not realizing she too is heading home.
I think of her thick dark curls and wide purple lips, clear olive skin
and hands that flit like a hummingbirds from this to that to this again,
her sensible flat-heeled shoes, pastel shirtwaist dresses, and red lipstick,
the jodhpurs, brown boots, crop for riding, a thing she did and excelled at.
Who paid for that, I wondered, and for the stash of stone and plaster horses
that stand and wait mostly abandoned at our grandmother’s one block away.
I remember when I saw her laugh, eyes sparkling, curly pony tail bopping –
it seemed to jiggle with delight, the smiles that seemed foreign to her face
but were nice to see. So I put on my lipstick, thinking how skinny my lips are
not bold and generous like hers. My hair is fine and silky, not thick and frizzy
and coarse like hers. I am fine-boned. She is big-boned. My big sister is big.
She rides horses, did I say that? I’m headed home. The train sings as it passes
town after town along its way until we arrive at Jamaica, Queens – a hub –
where I change trains. I’m headed home where mom will serve up her anger in
bowls of pressure cooked chicken and potatoes, where plaster falls like mana,
water pipes rattle and shower water is icy, sometimes rusty. I’m headed home,
little realizing Teresa Margaret is headed home too, winging her way on a DC10
from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, cold in a wooden box, colder bullet in her head.
Youth (aged 10-24 years) Suicide Statistics:
For middle and high school age youth (ages 12-18), suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death.
For college age youth (ages 18-22), suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death.
Over-all, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for our youth ages 10-24.
(*2013 CDC WISQARS)
In ages 10-14, we have seen an alarming 128% increase in suicides since 1980, making it the third leading cause of death for that age group.
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
Each day in [the United States alone], there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12.
Statistics Courtesy of The Jason Foundation established by Jason Flatt’s parents in his memory. Jason’s father write’s, “I will never hug my son again. But I can and will work alongside you…perhaps to save your friend, your neighbor’s child, a relative or even your own son or daughter. Thank you for your support of any kind . . . “
© 2015, poem, Jamie Dedes; photograph courtesy of Linda Allardice, Public Domain Pictures.net.
2 thoughts on “Heading Home”
That last line is like a bullet. The statistics are sad, overwhelming and unacceptable. Has reality in this country gotten so bad that so many youth see suicide as a viable solution? Or is it that we are all so isolated and/or apathetic about what it’s like to grow up in today’s society that we’ve become desensitized to all of the pressures kids today face? I don’t know, but I’m very sorry for your loss, Jamie. 😦 It’s a prickly subject, but one that needs to have the spotlight on it because it’s so important.
Thank you, Corina. You are right. It’s sad and unacceptable.